Health Insurance Premiums Continue Upward Climb: CIAB

Nov. 23, 2004 – WASHINGTON -The cost of health insurance continued its upward climb for companies of all sizes, with more than half the smaller employers and two-thirds of the medium-size businesses finding their premiums 10-20 percent higher during the last six months than they were at the beginning of the year.

Large employers, those with 501 or more employees, also saw their health insurance premiums increasing, with 30 percent of the account premiums up by 1-10 percent, and 40 percent up by 10-20 percent over the first six months of 2004.

For small accounts, representing employers with 50 or fewer employees, 12 percent of premiums were up 1-10 percent; 55 percent were up 10-20 percent; and 13 percent were up 20-30 percent. For medium-sized accounts, with 51 to 500 employees, 19 percent of premiums were 1-10 percent higher; 64 percent were up 10-20 percent; and 5 percent were 20-30 percent higher.

According to the survey, less than 11 percent of employers who offer health insurance to their workers experienced flat rates or decreases in their premiums during the second half of the year, regardless of the size of company.

The findings were contained in The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers� benefits survey, which is taken twice a year to track trends in benefit offerings and premium costs in the commercial insurance marketplace. The Council represents the nation�s largest insurance brokers who annually write 80 percent of the commercial property/casualty premiums and administer billions of dollars of employee benefits accounts.

Benefits brokers responding to the survey said increasing employee contributions, assessing prescription drug co-pays and higher deductibles and co-pays for all services were the most common options their clients were choosing to control costs.

Although consumer driven health plans and various defined contribution plans are still relatively new options, the brokers responding to the survey indicated that there is a great deal of interest in them. The health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) that President Bush has strongly supported are prompting insurers to begin preparing options for employers. Employers are showing interest in them, the respondents said, but they still have not gained much traction in the marketplace.

The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers is the voice of the market leaders and the premier association for commercial insurance and employee benefits intermediaries in the United States and abroad. From its headquarters in Washington, DC � with programs conducted throughout the nation and world � The Council represents the largest, most productive, and most profitable of all commercial insurance agencies and brokerage firms. Only the top one percent of all agents and brokers qualify. The Council’s members in more than 3,000 locations, place 80 percent � well over $90 billion � of all U.S. insurance products and services protecting business, industry, government and the public at-large, and they administer billions of dollars in employee benefits. Since 1913, The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers has worked in the best interests of its members, securing innovative solutions and creating new market opportunities at home and abroad. Web site: www.ciab.com.